The last Hunting Act prosecution involving a registered hunt collapsed earlier this year, three days into a scheduled 10-day trial at Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court, when private prosecutors, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), withdrew all evidence.
The court sought confirmation from absent LACS acting chief executive Rachel Newman, a qualified solicitor, that she had advised expert witness Professor Stephen Harris not to disclose a close personal relationship between himself and LACS head of operations Paul Tillsley.
Professor Harris had also been accused of embellishing his experience of hunting whilst giving evidence. Rather than answer these very serious questions LACS withdrew all charges.
In a private prosecution, LACS had summoned six members of the Lamerton hunt in West Devon to face allegations of illegal hunting and pursued them through
the courts for more than 18 months after Devon and Cornwall Police correctly ruled that they had no case to answer.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “This appalling case raises a series of fundamental questions about the abuse of the criminal justice system by vindictive private prosecutors. LACS spent more than a £100,000 of charitable funds on a case that the police had correctly judged simply did not stand up. In desperation it has then sought to present as independent an expert witness who was clearly deeply prejudiced against the defendants.
LACS sought to corrupt the criminal justice system and use it to harass six innocent people over an 18-month period. Questions need to be asked about this abuse at the highest levels.”
David Lewis, huntsman of the Lamerton hunt, said: “We were confident from the start that we had done nothing wrong and that all our hunting was legal, but our names and the allegations that LACS were making were all over the local papers. The whole thing seemed to go on forever and whilst we are happy it is now all over it was not a pleasant experience.”